Setting: A fictional village near Lucca, Italy in 1944 and 1973. Also Surrey, England.
***I received an eARC copy of The Tuscan Child from Little Bird Publicity, and the publisher, Lake Union Publishing, via NetGalley***
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Review: Oof. This one was really tough for me. I’m a huge, huge fan of Rhys Bowen’s, so when I was contacted by Little Bird Publicity to review her latest book, The Tuscan Child, I immediately jumped at the chance! I adore Bowen’s Molly Murphy Mystery series, and also her Lady Georgiana series. I also really enjoyed her first standalone book, In Farleigh Field, which I reviewed when it came out. So I went into reading The Tuscan Child with very high expectations! And I’m sad to say that I just did not connect with this title in any way. I found it very slow and a bit too serious.
Two different characters narrate The Tuscan Child: Hugo Langley, in 1944, and his daughter, Joanna Langley, in 1973. Hugo is shot down over Italy, and is aided by a woman, Sofia, as he hides from the Nazis. His story of how he escapes is interwoven with Joanna’s story, as she learns her father has died, and travels to Italy to learn more about his time there. The weaving of the stories was done well, although I found that there was too much time spent on Hugo’s story. His story of hiding in the woods and recuperating from his injuries just felt monotonous and bland. Hugo was a perfectly fine character; he just didn’t spark my interest in any way. I enjoyed Joanna’s story more, although I didn’t connect with her, either. When she arrives in Italy, she ends up staying with a local woman, and meets many of the villagers and makes friends with handsome Renzo.
I went into this book assuming it was a mystery. After all, every other book I’ve read by Rhys Bowen has been a mystery. This ended up being a mystery as well, but one with more of a leisurely pace than what I’m accustomed to with Bowen’s writing. There was no sense of urgency here. That doesn’t mean it is bad, just that it wasn’t what I was expecting, and so the pace felt much slower when compared with her other books.
Another issue I had with The Tuscan Child was that there wasn’t any sense of fun here. It felt so serious, and I felt bogged down while reading. You’d think that a tale of a lady traveling to the Italian countryside would have a bit of lightness and fresh air to it. There was such an air of sadness around this, and so this book felt much more serious than Bowen’s other titles. There are some nice scenes involving food, and these were the highlight of the book for me.
As this is a mystery, it’s important to me that mysteries end well, and unfortunately, the ending was neither exciting nor unexpected. I got the sense that I was supposed to feel something powerful at the end, and I just… felt nothing.
Even though this one was a miss for me, I will absolutely still read this author’s works, and look forward to her next book!
Bottom Line: I didn’t connect with this and thought it was slow and dare I say it, boring.
Will you be reading The Tuscan Child? Are you a fan of Rhys Bowen’s books? Has an author you loved ever released a title you didn’t care for?